Astin Currie is a Royal Woman who strives to become the ultimate resource for both men and women who have suffered from breast cancer. The 34-year-old is a two-time breast cancer survivor and has dedicated her life to educating and empowering women who are fighting “the good fight.”
The Tennessee native is an advocate and the founder of the non-profit Love While You Cancer. Black women are over 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and morality rates for younger Black women are even higher. But fortunately, the Atlanta-based mother and professional is not one of them.
Currie was only 28-years-old when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She had just given birth to her daughter, Love, and received the call on her birthday, out of all days.
“I just remember screaming at the top of my lungs,” she recalled sharing the news with her sister. Both women were screaming and crying. “I’m like, ‘I have a baby and I’m sitting there thinking, “Oh my God, you’re diagnosing me with cancer like, this is a death sentence’.”
But immediately after the tears, the fight to survive kicked in. After researching the treatment options, Currie opted out of chemotherapy.
Instead, she tried a new test that was offered exclusively at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital called Oncotype DX. The test could predict how likely breast cancer can come back after surgery and how the tumor will respond to chemo. The test, which was in its experimental stages at the time, could also determine whether undergoing chemo will help cancer or make it worse. With the help of her doctor, who was also on the board for the experimental test, Currie became one of the first patients to take part in the trials.
She ended up getting a mastectomy, followed by immediate reconstruction surgery. Although the tests showed no cancer in her lymph nodes, Currie’s doctor suggested that she undergo chemo, nonetheless, as a precaution. But once again, Currie opted out of it. For one reason, her job’s insurance only paid for the mastectomy and the chemo would’ve had to come out of pocket.
“When they told me that it [cancer] wasn’t in my lymph nodes. I went against my doctor completely and decided I’m just going to keep the mastectomy,” Currie explained, after weighing her options at the time. “I’m not going to do chemo or radiation; I’m going to pray. And I’m just going to follow what God is saying so that’s what I did.”
The second time
After the operation, Currie returned to work and continued to conduct her routine self-checks. Ten months after her mastectomy, she found another lump, this time under her arm.
“When I found the lump under my arm I knew. I wanted to think that it wasn’t anything but because I knew what it felt like from before, I instantly knew.”
The cancer returned in 2016 and this time, Currie decided she will do the chemo treatment. There was some regret on not taking the treatment the first time, but ultimately she felt she made the right decision.
“I was able to take off work for almost like a year, and then go back to work after my chemo and continue on with my life,” she reflected on the change in her career and financial circumstances versus the first time she was diagnosed.
“And that mattered to me, it made a difference that I had a job to go back to and it gave me something to work towards.”
Five years later
Today, the Atlanta-based advocate focuses on educating Black women about the common misconceptions about breast cancer, including the misconception about age and the belief that cancer can only happen to you when you’re older. Her non-profit Love While Your Cancer is named after her daughter.
“When I got sick, I wanted to have something to leave her like a legacy,” says Currie. “And I’ve made her name a part of everything since then.”
She’s also the author of an affirmation book titled, Color While You Cancer. Her social media campaign, Feel On The Fifth was named after the day she was first diagnosed. On the fifth of each month, Currie goes online and encourages women and men to do self-breast exams. Currie even reaches out to young girls, since it was her own self-evaluations that she started performing on herself at that age, that ultimately saved her life.
“I was diagnosed five, five of fifteen. And I hated the fifth,” says Currie. “That 5-5-15 combination- I just wanted to bring something positive to that day versus something negative.”
This past June, Currie co-hosted a retreat called iCancervive. Her co-host and close friend, Treecie Miller, who is also a breast cancer survivor, joined. The purpose of the retreat is to provide an outlet for people who are struggling with cancer, whether directly or indirectly. It focused on self-care activities and community service.
What makes Astin Currie a Royal Woman?
“Taking the negative that has happened to me and turning it into purpose and allowing God to use me is what makes me a Royal Woman. Allowing God to use my pain for purpose is what makes me a Royal Woman.”
Astin Currie’s story was originally published in our Fall 2020 magazine.
A working journalist, entrepreneur and founder of RoyalTee Enterprises. Born and raised in Tampa, Fla. The vision of RoyalTee was inspired in 2015 by Alexia’s ambitions to return to her passion for creative writing and publishing and create a platform to showcase the excellence of minority women across the country through professional, personal and social ventures.